The future of the “High Street” – it ain’t shops

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    So says an influential report. Towns like Wrexham (and the Government) need to act radically NOW to avoid a future ghost town


    Too late mate, it’s already a ghost town. Dead and buried.


    Council Watcher

    I give Wrexham 10 years of decline- There should be a palliative care plan developed to ensure that the decline is managed in a way that still leaves the basics that will be required for a community of people living in the town. Within 10 years Wrexham Town will have more of a feeling of a large village main street. People will be living in properties once thriving as retail outlets. The lack of jobs in the town will mean more developments like on Grosvenor Road catering for older people and those with support needs.

    The levels of pedestrian footfall will be so low that traffic can move around Regent Street and High Street with relative ease.

    The new ‘village feel’ will be created with more ‘chill’ space such as small cafes- Ty Pawb will be a Community Centre and only the Guildhall left as a centre for the Council.


    The problem with these reports…..and there are many of them… that people read them and conclude that the tumbleweed is coming. Doom and Gloom. What they are generally saying is that there are huge factors in play that are creating the potential for Doom and Gloom but that things can be done early on to prevent Doom and Gloom being the way of it. Clearly, towns will never be what they were in the 1960s-1980s, but they still have a future if the Ostriches take their heads out of their rear portions. Quite clearly, if the shopper and tourist wants to shop conveniently in 2018, then designing towns which make access either difficult or expensive is a tumbleweed policy. Quite clearly, if shopping for the bland brand product is shifting on-line exponentially (which it is) but that people still want to rummage through interesting Independent shops (which they do), then it is towns like Kendal that will avoid the tumbleweed. They are encouraging the planners to look at only allowing small shop units to be built and encouraging large units to be sub-divided. This will allow micro-businesses to emerge.

    There are loads of Reports that outline lists of simple things that towns can do today to improve their position and a useful starting point is the Manchester Metropolitan University Reports on towns. Perhaps if the Welsh Assembly and WCBC can get together and work on some of the simple and not so simple stuff, the tumbleweed might be avoided



    Nice post Alun.

    I think it’s becoming pretty obvious that the Government (not sure if this is Westminster or Cardiff) need to re-look radically at business rates for retail – probably effectively abolish it and replace with something else (like increased sales tax, maybe lower on physical shops than online?)

    A more local example than Kendal is Llangollen. I went there recently and browsed / shopped at loads of shops and can’t recall going in a single national chain (may be wrong)


    Llangollen is an interesting case and shows what can happen if the preponderance of shops are small and the planners don’t try to facilitate the import of big units. We went to Market Drayton the other week and that seems similar. Wrexham seemed to bend over backwards to develop big units at one time and most towns that systematically go down that road end up being classified by the New Economics Foundation as ‘clone’ towns. It would appear to be the ‘clones’ that are really under pressure because it is the ‘individual’ shops that are surviving at a greater rate, the ones that are local and offering personal service.

    Small shops or, to be honest, small units, have to be the way forward because it is they that offer the small scale entrepreneur of any description to grow a business. Many of these, as the featured report indicate, will be Crafts or Arts linked or may feature many of the new service offers which are breaking out all over. Good examples of these include coffee shops, beauticians, hair dressers, chiropodists, nail technicians, potters, and the like.


    Council Watcher

    Llangollen is a fundamentally different place to Wrexham – for start, it is defined as a tourist town with a range of attractions within an easy walking distance of the main car parks thus allowing for a good visitor experience of many things for everyone.
    Arts and Crafts
    Weekly Market
    Horseshoe Pass and Falls
    Eisteddfod develops international links and a venue for conferences and other events
    Camping and caravan parks
    Large range of hotels, B & Bs and food outlets
    Small independents — there are probably only a couple of Nationals- Spar, Edinburgh Wool, (regional businesses the old Village Bakery shop).
    Most are all within a mile of each other

    Its ease of access for coaches makes it the ideal stop for trips from the Midlands and Cheshire when they come over the border in Wales so they have a tea and toilet stop. The traders for many years have provided inducements to the coach drivers to stop- this is a vital part of the day trip and coach holiday trade if you want them to stop.

    These are just a few of the points that make a difference between Wrexham and Llangollen and why there are thriving shops.


    Spot on CW, Wrexham is many things, but not a tourist attraction itself – an ex market town and wannabe Chester – a true tourist magnet – and needs to realise this. The county itself has many great assets but as for the town centre no! I enjoy a walk through Kendal,Chester, Shrewsbury even Whitchurch but Wrexham never. #Shame.



    Point of interest. Are there actually any towns centres people have visited where everything is so closed up/run down that it effectively already is a ghost town?

    You’d think with these warnings in place on mid level towns like Wrexham that somewhere worse off would be like 75% there.

    Rhyl’s not doing great but even that is hanging on for dear life.



    Good post Nen and very interesting. Cool :)

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